Jayne Dawson: Finally I get it – gardens are for more than your junk

Gardening is good for the soul.
Gardening is good for the soul.
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Why didn’t anyone tell me? How could it possibly have taken this long for me to know?

I could have had years of this. Instead I’m just learning to plant things in the few years I have left before I’m planted myself. (Hopefully I’m exaggerating, but you just don’t know).

So my life has divided into before and after. Before was when I only opened the back door to throw an old mattress out there, to join the set of broken drawers and the pile of congealed, rancid fat from the chip pan.

Don’t judge me, I grew up in Bramley in the ‘70s where that kind of behaviour was an improvement.

My granddad only opened the doors to his garden once - they built council houses on the Wyther estate posh back then - and that was to boot my grandma into the gooseberry bush -- goodness knows how that got there - from whence she emerged scratched to shreds and mad as a scalded cat, and proceeded to make him sorry.

Like I said, don’t judge me. I’m just passing on the story, not condoning.

Anyway, for the longest time, that was gardens to me. Places where you dumped stuff you couldn’t transport anywhere because you didn’t have a car; places where startling things happened to your grandma; places that caused your neighbours to complain to your mum and dad about the bindweed that was spreading from your neglected patch to their tended patch.

Their complaints on that score always confused me because that bindweed curling round our fence was one of the loveliest things I have ever seen. To this day I cannot understand why they didn’t want it too.

Now I’m different - except about the bindweed. You don’t see much of it these days though. I think it must be among the Things That Have Disappeared.

But I have discovered gardening with the passion of the convert. Don’t let me mislead you - the number of plants in my “garden” hasn’t yet reached double figures - but I’m starting to Get It.

Friday nights for me now are all about Monty Don. It took a while for me to be able to hear him refer to the “jewel garden” without snorting and guffawing in the manner of a Bramley person who had just heard something very pretentious, but I’m over that now. Now, I just want his dog.

And I’m reading newspapers and magazines in a whole new way, skimming through until I find the adverts for plants.

Admittedly, the first time I saw the phrase “plug plant” I wondered why it was necessary to wire your foxgloves to the mains, but I’ve got the hang of it now.

Plug plants, it turns out, are things I should avoid - something expensive from a garden centre that is all ready to be plunged right into my soil is what I’m after.

I say soil, but that’s stretching it a bit. What I have is a mix of builder’s rubble and clay. Clay thick enough to throw pots, clay that comes in stripes of different colour. With a light sprinkling from a bag of compost I threw on top.

So far I have acquainted myself with three garden centres, and it’s been an up and down experience. As well as plants, they sell an awful lot of sugar-based products that look like they contain enough chemicals to survive a nuclear war.

Out back is where the good stuff is but, crikey, it’s easy to spend a lot. And also easy to fall out with your mother, who has an entirely different vision of the perfect plot, it turns out.

I know none of this sounds promising, but I have dreams. I dream of a cottage garden to wrap around my modern, suburban box. I dream of tall, airy blooms, the leggy models of the garden world, drifting across my eyeline. I want herbs and climbers and night-scented things. It’s true that currently I see nothing but fence and a washing line but my paradise in earth will be there soon, my fingers are greener by the day and I’m not even talking about my nail varnish.

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